New ‘Most Efficient’ Label Adds Tier to Energy Star Ratings

Three products rated Most Efficient by Energy StarThis refrigerator, TV, and washer have the new "Most Efficient" designation. A complete list can be found here. Image: Energy Star

For me, buying appliances is a balancing act — I want to buy reasonably efficient appliances, but I still need to balance my checkbook at the end of the month.

Energy Star just launched a pilot program for a new designation that’s supposed to help me figure out how to do that. The new “Most Efficient” Energy Star label will be given to the top 5% of washers, heating and cooling equipment, televisions, and refrigerator-freezers that already bear the Energy Star designation.

Although many of the first products to get the designation are pricey ones, it’s a positive step because virtually all the home appliances on the market already have the designation, which dilutes the value of the program for consumers. If you’re at a big-box home store shopping for a stainless steel dishwasher, you can choose from 95 products — 92 of which are Energy Star (the three that aren’t are budget-busting double-drawer models).

If you’re choosing household products based on energy performance, we suggest you also check out Consortium for Energy Efficiency ratings. The highest-rated Energy Star products are on the low end of CEE’s ratings (and Energy Star isn’t shabby!).

Some people question the whole Energy Star program, saying it’s too easy to get certified. That’s an assessment the Government Accounting Office confirmed last year when it tricked the EPA into giving a gas-powered alarm clock and 15 other fake products the Energy Star label.

That fiasco certainly had me wondering about the value of the program, but it sounds like Energy Star is at least moving in the right direction with this new most-efficient label.

Did you consider energy use the last time you bought an appliance? Do you think the “Most Efficient” Energy Star label is a positive step?